Why HR Struggles to Get Its Point Across

© Rido - Fotolia.com
© Rido - Fotolia.com

I like telling stories, it’s one of my favorite things to do.

I also love listening to stories. If I’m ever in a Barnes and Noble and someone is reading a story out loud to a bunch of kids in the kid’s section, on those little benches, you can bet I’ll be pushing three kids off a bench, sitting in the front row, captivated and chewing on one of my fingers, listening intently.

Great story telling is a skill, and one that most people can learn if they give themselves enough chances, and feel some deep emotion about the story they want to share.

So, what does this have to do with HR and our ability to be heard?

Stories vs. facts

Seth Godin recently had this to say on this blog:

A statement of fact is insufficient and often not even necessary to persuade someone of your point of view.”

A powerful statement all by itself. In HR we love facts; we use them like bullets in gun, firing shots across conference room tables, only to watch the head of marketing stand up and and use his storytelling shield to stop each shot.

It drives us crazy to sit there and listen to some silly story, when we have the facts, and watch an executive side with the silly story over the facts almost every time. “I mean really! You’re going to go with the story about how his kid fingered painted all over the walls of his new house, over the fact I handed you a spread sheet showing you we are bleeding turnover to determine who should get more money for their projects?!” Well, yes, actually.

Making more HR connections

More from Seth:

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Politicians, non-profits and most of all, amateur marketers believe that all they need to do to win the day is to recite a fact. You’re playing Monopoly and you say, “I’ll trade you Illinois for Connecticut.” The other person refuses, which is absurd. I mean, Illinois costs WAY more than Connecticut. It’s a fact. There’s no room for discussion here. You are right and they are wrong.

But they still have the property you want, and you lose. Because all you had was a fact.

On the other hand, the story wins the day every time. When the youngest son, losing the game, offers to trade his mom Baltic for Boardwalk, she says yes in a heartbeat. Because it feels right, not because it is right.”

Stories make connections. Connections drive people to act and behave differently. Things change when behaviors change. Facts don’t do that — connections do that.

As HR Pros we need to make more connections for our employees, hiring managers, and senior leadership teams. I’m not saying don’t have the facts – you will still need those – just don’t lead with the facts every time.

Once in a while, lead with that story about how you met your spouse, or found your dog, or got caught washing your kitchen floor in your boxer shorts on your hands and knees by your neighbors (I mean totally just as an example … ).

This was originally published on Tim Sackett’s blog, The Tim Sackett Project.

Tim Sackett, MS, SPHR is executive vice president of HRU Technical Resources, a contingent staffing firm in Lansing, MI. Tim has 20 years of HR and talent background split evenly between corporate HR gigs among the Fortune 500 and the HR vendor community ? so he gets it from both sides of the desk. A frequent contributor to the talent blog Fistful of Talent, Tim also speaks at many HR conferences and events. Contact him here.

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2 Comments on “Why HR Struggles to Get Its Point Across

  1. Hello Tim,

    Your point is well taken.  It is relevant not only to HR, but to all human beings.  Get our emotions involved, and we are more likely to take action.  Employee Engagement is the same way.  We are constantly bombarded with information on how important it is becoming to keep your employees engaged to keep performance up, keep employees from walking out the door, and to get the best ideas out of our employees to help our company succeed in a poor economy.

    Yet few illustrative stories are told about how to engage employees.  You only get their best ideas if you get employees onto their soapboxes.  You can only get them on their soapboxes if you ask them to express and show their passions.  Get them to tell their stories, and the ideas start flowing hard and fast. Then, as a team, you can find ways to implement them, either at work or in their personal lives. This is employee engagement.

    Yes, we want our employees to focus on the tasks they were hired to do.  Yes, we want them consistently at work and performing.  But when the work gets routine or overwhelming, what prevents them from shutting down and tuning out? When they get bored, what keeps them on task?  The answer is – a focus on a topic that they feel passionate about.  Give them the permission and a forum in which to express themselves, give them goals, and then watch them take off – and re-energize themselves and refocus on their work!

    HR’s message isn’t just about finding the right candidates, or having the right mixture of benefits.  It’s also about keeping the executive management focused on retaining knowledge and talent.  It’s also about re-enforcing the need for a cohesive culture that supports excellent and innovative performance, and creating  an environment where Employees are Raving Fans of the company and its mission.

    So let’s all get out their and tell our employee’s stories to the executives!

  2. Interesting post Tim.  HR may be over emphasizing the facts these days because that is what we were told we had to do in order to get that “seat at the table”.  Where do we draw the line?

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